This Friday’s big new wide release is The Snowman, which boasts not only a ridiculous premise and the unintentionally-funniest trailer of the fall, but a lead character named, and I’m not making this up, “Harry Hole.” (Seriously! Check the IMDb page!) And sure, it’s based on a Norwegian book, and these things translate strangely, and so on. But are we really to believe that this thing went all the way through the development and production process at a major motion picture studio, and nobody – not star Michael Fassbender, not director Tomas Alfredson, no one at Universal, a script supervisor, nobody was like, “Hey, guys, um, Harry Hole? Really?”
Then again, there’s a long, rich history of movies making it to our screens featuring protagonists with monikers just as silly as “Harry Hole.” Maybe even more so!
Cole Trickle (Days of Thunder)
Tom Cruise starred in this 1990 Tony Scott film as the World’s Greatest Racecar Driver (hard on the heels of playing the World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot, the World’s Greatest Billiards Player, and the World’s Great Bartender), but the name he cooked up with screenwriter Robert Towne – who penned Chinatown! – sounds more like a symptom of a venereal disease. “Hey doc, I’ve got hives and itching and a bad case of the cole trickle.”
Flipper Purify (Jungle Fever)
In the long tradition of on-the-nose naming, we can perhaps forgive the surname of Wesley Snipes’ leading character in Spike Lee’s 1991 interracial romance – after all, this husband and family man needs to be purified of his desire for his white co-worker. But Flipper? Flipper? Were his parents big fans of 1960s TV shows about dolphins? (His brother, played by Samuel L. Jackson, is named “Gator,” which goes to show that parents should learn from their naming mistakes.)
Cleveland Heep (Lady in the Water)
Sorry, I get them confused – which repulsive sexual position is the Cleveland Heep? Is that the one with the mirror and the ziplock bags?
Johnny Goodboy Tyler (Battlefield Earth)
Who’s a good boy? Barry Pepper’s character in John Travolta’s megaflop sci-fi Scientology agitprop is, that’s who! Yes he is! There’s a good boy!
Jupiter Jones (Jupiter Ascending)
Look, Wachowskis, I get that you wanted to call your movie Jupiter Ascending – it’s a pretty good title (if a less-than-great movie). But that didn’t mean you had to call your central character “Jupiter,” and it certainly didn’t mean you had to give her the alliterative handle “Jupiter Jones,” and it really didn’t mean you had to have her go around the whole movie telling people, “Call me Jupe!” That said, it’s not like co-star Channing Tatum got off any easier; his half-man, half-dog character is named “Caine Wise,” while Eddie Redmayne’s villain is dubbed “Balem Abrasax.”
Helen Shivers (I Know What You Did Last Summer)
Hey, maybe there are less subtle character names for a horror movie character than “Helen Shivers”; I just can’t think of one at this particular moment.
Bitsey Bloom (The Life of David Gale)
“Bitsey Bloom” would be a goofy name for someone in, say, a broad Coen Brothers slapstick comedy, but it’d work. But slapping it on Kate Winslet’s major-magazine journalist character in this super-serious rape-and-death-row drama is a grotesque miscalculation. Then again, so is pretty much the entire movie.
John Matrix (Commando) / Jericho Cane (End of Days)
Coming up with a good, hard, memorable name for an action hero is a tough bit of business. Do it right, and you end up with “John McClane” or “John Rambo”; do it wrong and you end up with these two, from early and late in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career. The former sounds like your grandfather’s best guess at the name of the protagonist of The Matrix; the latter sounds like a Southern Gothic sugar company.
Marion Cobretti (Cobra) / Kit Latura (Daylight)
The pressure was even higher on Stallone when he made Cobra in 1986, right in the midst of the reign of his other five-letter icons, Rambo and Rocky. And in and of itself “Cobra” is fine, sort of? But “Marion Cobretti” has the authenticity of a name Kevin Spacey pulls off the bulletin board in The Usual Suspects. And “Kit Latura,” from Daylight a decade later, sounds like a Mob plumber.
Cypher Raige (After Earth)
Good ol’ M. Night Shyamalan strikes again, giving Will Smith’s character in this 2013 sci-fi flop a name that sounds like the virtual villain in one of those mid-‘90s “fear the Internet” movies.
Korben Dallas (The Fifth Element)
Considering the fact that Luc Besson has a sense of humor and The Fifth Element is frequently funny, let’s choose to believe that the unfortunate name of its Bruce Willis character is, in fact, a subtle satire of the silliness of ‘90s action hero sobriquets.
Cade Yeager (Transformers: Age of Extinction / Transformers: The Last Knight)
I will not, however, grant the same benefit of the doubt to Michael Boom-Boom Bay. But it does seem like Mark Wahlberg had spent his entire career working up to a character named “Cade.”
Gino Felino (Out for Justice)
Steven Seagal has spent his entire career playing absurdly-named men, from “Jonathan Cold” to “Simon Ballister” to “Paulie Trunks” to, of course, The Onion Movie’s “Cock Puncher.” But the goofiest one came in this early vehicle, wherein Seagal plays an NYPD detective and Brooklyn native, mostly because it sounds someone had to come up with a “funny Italian name” in a first-year improv class.
Yin Yang (The Expendables trilogy)
EXPENDABLES PRODUCER: Jet Li is the only Asian “expendable,” so we’d better be careful not to give him a racist name. SCREENWRITERS SYLVESTER STALLONE AND DAVE CALLAHAM: Hold our beer
Saint O’ffender (The Roller Blade Seven trilogy)
Joe Estevez, the younger (and lesser) brother of Martin Sheen, has one of those IMDb pages – nearly 300 roles, all of them blessed with woefully silly names. But this one, for his villainous role in this trilogy of roller-blade martial-arts films, is definitely the silliest, the character-name version of Avatar‘s “Unobtanium.”
Rayford Steele (Left Behind)
When director Vic Armstrong made the second book adaptation of Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins’s Christian-lit bestseller, he fixed several of the previous film’s mistakes (chief among them: no Kirk Cameron). But he kept the protagonist’s name intact: airline pilot Rayford Steele, first played by Brad Johnson, then by a super-slumming Nicolas Cage. No matter the actor, it’s impossible not to think that he must be Remington Steele’s younger, dumber brother.
Christian White (Saving Christmas)
And speaking of the former Mike Seaver, we must take the opportunity to mention that the key supporting character of Cameron’s 2014 “put the ‘Christ’ back in ‘Christmas’” screed, the guy who (per the star/producer himself) represents “the typical white Christian male” with “a bad case of religious bah humbugs” is named, seriously, seriously, “Christian White.” Because sometimes, they just look at the placeholder first-draft screenplay name and decide it’s not worth the effort to replace it.
Dr. Christmas Jones (The World is Not Enough)
And while we’re on the subject of Christmas, a list such as this wouldn’t be complete without the title of the nuclear scientist Bond girl played by Denise Richards in the 1999 garbage festival, perhaps the nadir of the series (though that’s a tough call). And it’s not that Bond movies haven’t given us plenty of silly names: after all, this series includes Pussy Galore, Holly Goodhead, and Xenia Onatopp. But something about this particular holiday-flavored handle, coupled with the notion of Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist, topples them all.